Without care ... that's what it's been all about for the past 35
years for this group of friends from the Twin Cities. Getting out and
being together on the waters of Saganaga Lake. Leaving their cares
behind. That's what they call their gathering; their pilgrimage, if you
will. Sans Souci... without care.
And they do it with a certain style, and a certain flair, that
distinguishes them from most other Boundary Waters visitors. While these
gentlemen spent their youth paddling and portaging throughout the Border
Country, these days they do it with boats and motors.... and a small
mountain of gear.
Bud, the Silver Fox to these his closest of friends, designed and
built a special trailer years ago with which to haul this mountain of
gear from the shores of Lake Minnetonka to the shores of Saganaga. Each
and every item, carefully checked off the master list, goes into its own
compartment for its familiar journey up Hwy. 35. Upon arrival the
compartments are lifted off the trailer bed and are placed, with
practiced precision, into the outfitter's waiting boats.
Butch, with the physique and humorous repertoire of comedian Louie
Anderson, supplies the food for this hearty and hungry gang. From his Norseman
restaurant west of Minneapolis come the thickest slabs of beef known to
man; to be grilled over an open fire some peaceful evening on
Englishman's Island, accompanied by sautéed mushrooms, baked potatoes
the size of a football, and a six foot salad bar.
Dalton, the poet and chief cook of the group, is also in charge of
libations. Drinks, in plastic of course, run the gamut from pre- and
post-dinner liqueurs, to the finest dinner wines, and some good old
fashioned, ice cold, kegged beer. It is also Dalton's personal
responsibility to be sure this group never runs short of Drambuie, the
official Sans Souci after dinner drink; a task which he is not allowed
to take lightly after coming up short one year.
But, lest you think this group has forgotten their roots along the
way, and have no place in your wilderness, witness this poem Dalton
penned just a few years ago.
LUNCHING BULL MOOSE.
PINES SPEAK MAGIC
ANTS KEEP WORKING.
ONCE EACH YEAR,
MY SANE CONNECTION.
The Sans Souci camp reminds me of a hardware store ... after a
tornado. That is not to say it's messy. In fact, quite the contrary, it
is clean, tidy, and extremely efficient. However, among its many
features you will find a camp chandelier fashioned from an expired
plastic beer ball, a golden table candelabra handcrafted from an odd
collection of plumbing fixtures, and the ever present BWCA latrine box
festooned with privacy tarps and battery powered miniature Christmas
The local Forest Service constabulary visits this camp frequently to
keep the party on its toes (and perhaps for the snappy repartee). They
are continually amazed by how much these guys love their island retreat
and the lengths they go to keep it clean. Not once in 15 years has the
group received as much as a warning and their camp is always left
cleaner than they found it. And woe to the group using the island before
them that leaves their island messy when they depart.
As these guys love to say, "This is a camping trip, not a
fishing trip." But fish they do and sometimes, despite their best
efforts, they actually catch a few. Now it is true that this generally
happens when Bud's adult son, Walter, comes along but it has happened
with only the "old guys", too. This is cause for celebration
and, should those fish happen to be walleyes, cause for a fish fry! Out
come the dress shirts, black bow ties, and linen napkins. Out come the
plastic flutes and some sippin' champagne. While they eat like kings
every night on Sag they outdo themselves for a fish fry. However, it
might be fair to say that there have been some occasional lapses in what
they like to call their "annual" fish fry.
Now, lest you get the wrong impression, let it be said that this is
indeed a camping trip. And it consists of all that is necessary for a
real camping trip: campfires, storytelling, fishing lies, comical
mishaps, leaky tents, dirty socks, and constant ribbing among old
friends. But it also entails late night, around the campfire, looks back
at the lives of its participants; and their successes and failures,
weddings and divorces, births and deaths, and, most of all, families and
You see, the second generations of their families are invited on the
spruced up, spring version of this annual fall outing. Where the kids,
now young adults, get to spend some quality time with their Dads and
these surrogate "uncles"; fishing, exploring, cooking, and,
As you can see, the name Sans Souci is a bit inaccurate.
Because these gentle men do indeed care a great deal. They deeply care
about the Boundary Waters. And they want their sons to pay their dues on
the portage trails as they did. But they also want to be able to camp
with them, Sans Souci style, for many more years to come. And they care
deeply about each other and their families. Mostly they care about these
carefree weeks together on Sag.
Bud's wife, Christine, put it into words for them last Christmas.
As you gentle
men go a-fishing
In the ponds of the
I feel you are
growing closer to God
In purity wisdom and
longer slaves of your tools this day
You're as free as the
eagles who fly
To see and feel and
smell and taste
The beauty of His
No canvas or camera
Few men have
been given this gift of life
And fewer still want
to take it
It's all for free a
gift from God
And most men want to
men like you still give
Hope to the young
That this jewel will
In velvet laws
And loved by all
Now they will not admit to any of this. Real men, as you already
know, don't talk about such things. But they bear witness to these
facts, and feelings, by making the pilgrimage twice a year. Without
fail... and without care. After all, you see, it really is a camping
trip! Sans Souci style...